I’m knee deep in preparation for a message I’m presenting in about a week.  I’ve got the cute catchy title – Spray on Faith—the funny illustration that involves the challenges of spray tanning and I have a message built around authentic faith.  

I love pondering and preparing a message.  I love the process of digging into the scriptures and above all of this I love how the Lord illuminates a passage just for me,  just when I need it.  But there is a hard part to this process.  It seems whatever the message I’m working on, it’s the message I’m living out.  It’s a constant process, this growing, changing, learning, stretching, transforming thing – but that’s life in Christ. 

Today I’m pondering authentic faith – bone deep faith, faith that stands up to the trials of life.  REAL faith. Faith that keeps me in this walk with the Lord. 

I see this life of faith and this walk of faith as a life lived between the ditches – and I’ve spent a fair amount of time in both of these ditches. 

On one side is the cultural faith – this is the faith that I walked in or rather stumbled through as a young adult.  For me it was a faith of a young woman who KNEW she accepted Christ and then decided to run off and lived just as she pleased.  If anyone asked me if I knew Christ, my answer was always YES!  But I also would loudly announce that all good people would go to heaven.  My theology was a mash-up of some stuff I heard on Oprah, a few Sunday school lessons (with the hard stuff left out) and John 3:16.  I was a hot mess and I was smack dab in the cultural Christian ditch. 

On the other side of this walk is the legalism ditch.  When I made my way back to a life in Jesus, I slipped…. nope, I ran straight into legalism.  It made sense. There are rules.  I could comprehend it.  Don’t drink. Don’t smoke. Don’t cuss. Don’t miss church.  Don’t do anything different than others. And there are more, many, many more – sadly.  I fell into this ditch.  People had to live the way I thought they should live to be a Christian.  But here’s the funny thing.  I was never good enough.  I didn’t feel as if I fit into the club… you know, the Christian club.  I didn’t quite know all the right words and phrases. I was a bit too… well, just too much.  I questioned authority and the deeper I sunk myself into God’s Word, the more I realized that most of the apostles were rebels – not legalist. It was through studying God’s Word that I began to understand grace – and my need for it. 

I’ve lived a large part of my life in one ditch or another. Stuck knee deep in the mud and miry.  The more I struggle, the more I sunk.  Without Jesus and his amazing grace, I’d still be there.

He lifted me out of the ditch,
      pulled me from deep mud.
   He stood me up on a solid rock
      to make sure I wouldn’t slip.   PS 40:2 (The Message)

I LOVE this version of this passage – and I love that a former legalist uses The Message!  There was a long time when I refused to even consider reading it. But this version just embodies the visual message I feel.  I KNOW the Lord extended His hand to me and pulled me out of my sin and saved me at age 11.  He set my feet on the SOLID rock of His Word. 

When I turned from His Word and began to listen to the world, I slipped into the ditch of cultural Christian and He, again, in His great mercy & grace, pulled me from that ditch and set  my feet AGAIN on the SOLID Rock and again I turned from Him and slipped into legalism. 

Today, I walk the road of authentic faith between two ditches.  I’ve been in these ditches, and I know the ONLY way to stay out of them is to stay away and to keep my feet firmly planted on the solid rock of His Holy Word. 

It sounds so simplistic and it is.  “Remain in me” is how Christ teaches us in John 15 – and it is, but it’s not popular and it’s not always easy.  We are promised trials on this earth.  Trials.  Not triumphs, trials.  But in Him I find my peace, my sanity, my joy, my purpose and no sticky mud.

I don’t know about you, but I do NOT like hanging out in a muddy ditch.